'A mother cannot give up'
MANILA, Philippines – Five years of searching for a missing loved one could be a long time for some, but not for Edita Burgos.
“A mother cannot give up,” said Mrs. Burgos.
Mrs. Burgos is the mother of farmer-activist Jonas Burgos who was abducted on April 28, 2007 while he was having lunch in a restaurant at a mall in Quezon City.
“If I don't look for him, if the family does not look for him, who would care to look for him?” said Mrs. Burgos.
“What if he were out there waiting for us to find him?” she asked.
Since Jonas disappeared, Mrs. Burgos has become not only the spokesperson of her family, but also the face for other victims of enforced disappearances in the country.
“Memories are short,” she said. “A lot of people have a lot of problems. Only when you remind them will they remember. It’s not only Jonas. There are so many disappeared who haven’t been found,” said Mrs. Burgos.
“To the mothers, I know they will never give up,” she said.
The family firmly believes that the military was behind Jonas’ abduction.
“I am absolutely sure that it was the military that took him and after the hearings and after the evidences were presented, that absolutely becomes 100 percent,” she said in an interview on ANC.
Atty. Ricardo Fernandez, the legal counsel of the family, has said that a suspect has been identified in the name of Army Major Harry Baliaga Jr.
“He was identified by an eye witness at our hearing at the Court of Appeals that he was one of the perpetrators who was among the group who abducted Jonas five years ago,” Fernandez said.
This new development can be considered as a breakthrough in the five year old case.
“In a sense, yes, because I was worried that the eye witness would say that he's not the guy. When he said he’s the one, the burden has shifted. A witness has positively identified one of the abductors,” the lawyer said.
Mrs. Burgos cited the hard work that the Commission on Human Rights has put into the case.
“The credit goes to the Commission on Human Rights. The team headed by Commissioner [Jose Manuel] Mamauag made a very thorough investigation and they came up with the name as they were also the ones who found the witnesses,” she said.
During Thursday’s CA hearing, Mrs. Burgos faced Baliaga, one of her son’s alleged abductors.
“There was no emotion really. I know for a fact that they received orders and they followed orders but I wish I could have talked to him and ask him where he brought my son. We didn’t get that chance, and actually I sort of pitied him because he was really rattled,” she said.
Fernandez explained that Baliaga, now assigned at the general headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, was pulled out from his former unit at the 56th Infantry Battalion when the CHR report that named him came out.
The plate number TAB 194 used in the abduction of Jonas was also traced to an impounded vehicle inside the 56th IB.
The Burgos camp is unsure if Baliaga is willing to name the others involved in abduction of Jonas.
“The case is being covered up. And his rank is probably very low in that organization of covering up the case. If he speaks out the truth of what he knows he might just find himself in trouble,” said Fernandez.
For someone who lost a son, Mrs. Burgos still feels sympathy towards her son’s abductors.
“We’re Christians. We should love everyone. We’re the children of the same father and I feel that this boy, this soldier, did what he had to do because you're a soldier, you follow orders.”
“But if given a chance, I’m sure that he would be able to come up with the truth if he's not threatened or really given the opportunity to talk without his family and his self being threatened, maybe he'll come out and tell the truth,” she said.
The next hearing is on May 23.
“To the perpetrators, I hope that you look at your hearts and see that abductions and forced disappearances will always be wrong, will always be a sin, it will always be a crime no matter who the victim is and no matter the circumstance surrounding the victim,” she said.
As to what keeps her motivated, Mrs. Burgos has this to say: “I still haven’t found my son. That’s what really motivates us”. - with ANC